Contending Earnestly

"Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that you should earnestly contend for the faith which was once and for all delivered to the saints. For there are certain men who have crept in unawares, who were from the old time ordained to this condemnation; they are ungodly men who turn the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ. I will therefore put you in remembrance, though you once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that did not believe. And the angels which did not keep their first estate, but left their own habitation, he has reserved in everlasting chains in darkness until the judgment of the great day. Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and other cities around them that were the same, having given themselves over to fornication, and going after other flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. So also are these filthy dreamers who defile the flesh, despise authority, and speak evil about spiritual leaders. Yet Michael, the archangel, when disputing with the devil over the body of Moses, dared not make any railing accusations against him, but simply said �the Lord rebuke thee�. But these people of which I speak are not the same; they speak evil about things they don�t understand or know about: but those things they do know about, natural and fleshly things, in these they corrupt themselves! Woe unto them! Because they have followed the way of Cain, they run greedily in the error of Balaam, and will perish in the gainsaying of Core." Jude 3:11

When Jude, brother of James and servant of Jesus Christ, penned these words at the direction of the Holy Spirit, only 30 or so years had passed since the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. In that short period of time, satan had already succeeded in corrupting the church to the point that error and heresy were rampant. While most modern scholars say that Jude was writing to specifically contradict the heresy of the Gnostics, I believe that he was including in his indictment and description ALL through the centuries who move through snare, error, and into heresy, regardless of the name applied to it. Certainly, as we read the words, we can see that such people not only exist, but bend and fit the Word of God to whatever need they desire to fulfill. The book of Jude, in the intervening 2000 years, is probably the least read, least liked, and least sermonized of all the books of the Bible, because it contains words that are sharp, pointed, and hard to be heard. Particularly in our western society, and in this �enlightened� age, the words of Jude do not bring comfort and ease, but instead point to a battle that MUST BE UNDERTAKEN if there is to be victory. From his words, though, there are a number of lessons to be learned IF WE WILL BUT HEED THEM.

We begin in vs.3, where Jude states that he was diligent to "write unto you of THE COMMON SALVATION". Strongs defines the word Koinos, translated KJV as common, as meaning "literally shared by all or several". Jude, in choosing these words, intended to emphasize to his readers that salvation, the gift of God, is something that is shared by MANY people, not just a select few. Added to this is the clear understanding that salvation is the same for everyone who has it. This person, or that person does not enjoy a greater or lesser degree of salvation than anyone else. Tie this together with the parable of Jesus concerning the days work, and the penny of pay (Mat.20:106), and it becomes obvious that there are no "super-saved". Also implied, in conjunction with other scriptures (notably 1Cor12 and Eph.4:4-7) is the statement that there are no "super-spiritual" believers. Some more willing, yes, some more humble, yes. Even some more "educated", but certainly none more capable of touching or knowing the mind and will of God than any other. Unfortunately, then, as now, it is a common thing to hear from within the church community that this denomination, or that denomination is "lost", or "can't be saved", or "just isn't with God".

Have you yourself ever heard from someone else that "Catholics can't be saved - they worship Mary", or "those Pentecostals are of the devil - they talk in tongues and dance too much". While the church was not necessarily intended by Jesus to have denominations, we CAN find in the Word of God these words: "One shall say, I am the Lord's; and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob; and another shall subscribe with his hand unto thee Lord, and surname himself by the name of Israel" (Isa.44:5). Now look at vs.3 of the same chapter, and we see that God has also said"...I will pour water UPON HIM THAT IS THIRSTY...". Have you ever known a thirsty Catholic, or a Pentecostal that hungered for God? Is there a Baptist out there who is determined to "be all that God wants him to be"?

Certainly the indication here is that God SAVES WHOM HE WILL, WHEN HE WILL, AND WHERE HE WILL, REGARDLESS OF THEIR NAME. It seems that the only requirement is BELIEF (faith) in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and in His atoning work on the cross in our behalf. Hmmmmmm. How about adding this: in 1Cor12:5 we see the words "...differences of administrations (ministries)" and in verse 6 "...diversities of operations (governing methodology)". I believe that it would not be to presumptuous of us to conclude that "denominationalism" within certain boundaries is perfectly acceptable, as long as we pay attention to our "charter"..."LOVE THE BRETHREN". For us to be so arrogant as to condemn another because of their affiliation is the height of satanic deception and Luciferian sin..."I will be as the most high" (by judging another). More about this subject in another study.

After establishing the COMMONALITY, or SHARED aspect of salvation, Jude makes a statement that is right in line with the words of Jesus, and often repeated in Paul's writings. That we "should EARNESTLY CONTEND for the faith...ONCE (and for all) delivered to the saints". Strongs again expands the meaning of "earnestly contend" to that of "struggling, contending, FIGHTING, running a race". Friends, earnestly (trying as hard and continually as you can) does NOT mean just attending church services, and letting someone else study for us or tell us what to think. It means DONNING THE FULL ARMOR OF GOD,, and FIGHTING A BATTLE against a conscious less, vile, and reprobate enemy. In the process of fighting we may suffer some loss, we may get hurt, and we may cry, but FIGHT THE BATTLE WE MUST DO. Above all, keep in mind that the LORD IS THE ULTIMATE VICTOR, and in Christ WE CANNOT LOSE (in the end).

It is here necessary to state emphatically again that if you think that by doing nothing you can avoid problems, or pain, or hurt, or loss, you are sadly mistaken. The act alone of doing nothing DECLARES THE ABSENCE OF THE SPIRIT OF CHRIST within, and without that spirit, WE HAVE NOTHING. Do you want a soft, easy life? Is it your intention to believe, and act upon the belief, that NOTHING is required of you? Go to church, read the Word every now and then, pray over your meals, but above all DON'T ROCK THE BOAT, and don�t put yourself out for anyone else, and DON'T tell anyone about Jesus, they might think you're a religious freak. If that is where you are, or have been, then you better fall on your knees right now, repent, and ASK JESUS INTO YOUR HEART WITH FULL AND ABSOLUTE COMMITMENT.

Got you mad, or upset? GOOD!! Because the next words from Jude are really gonna set you off. "For there are certain people who have JOINED THE CHURCH, and these people have been ordained from the old times to CONDEMNATION; They are UNGODLY (without the Spirit of God), turning the grace of our God into evil things, CONTRADICTING, rejecting, and DENYING by their ACTIONS the only Lord God, and OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST" (paraphrase and emphasis mine).

Oh no, you say, he couldn't be talking about church people. Who do you think he was writing to, the Philistines? Jude points out that satan, through these "professors of faith" has slithered into the church while NO ONE WAS PAYING ATTENTION! Further, that these "professors" are ALREADY CONDEMNED, and that from a lot longer ago than any of us can remember. It is their ACTION, not their words that show the absolute truth of their ungodliness. Did not Jesus say that "...by their fruits you shall know them"?

Throughout the churches of the world today, there are still plenty of people just like those Jude wrote about. People who join a church, and make a profession of faith for any number of reasons OTHER than the truth. Some because it is good for business. Some, for standing in the community, or because it fills a void in their lives. Some, because of rejection by society, and some because they are forced or coerced into it by mother, wife, son, husband, daughter, friends, or otherwise. Some, because they want to be a big fish in a little pond, or to show off their knowledge or talent. Some, because they see in the "ministry" a career, just another job that will get them through life easily. Of all the reasons that may be given, the saddest are those who make a profession based upon INCORRECT KNOWLEDGE gained from some preaching or teaching from a pulpit. Well meaning though they may be, these people are still DECEIVED ABOUT THE TRUTH, and no matter how well meaning or sincere they may be, they still fall short, and remain condemned.

Our local assemblies, pews, and pulpits are filled with people who DO NOT HAVE THE SPIRIT OF GOD RESIDING WITHIN. From these ranks satan has minion of willing disciples who are easily snared, led into error, and then willingly propagate more falsehood about Jesus and the Kingdom of God. Remember this my friends: all the good works you may perform WILL NOT SAVE YOU. Hours, days, weeks, or even years of faithful "ministry" cannot save you. Church membership or denominational affiliation cannot save you. Only JESUS CHRIST CAN SAVE YOU, AND HIS WORK IS COMPLETE, and the result of THAT work WILL BE SEEN by others in WHAT you do (love in truth), HOW you do it (to the point of dying), to WHOM you do it (anyone), and WHEN you do it (all the time).

Well, you might say; "I know I�ve been saved, bcause I believe in Jesus, and I've been dunked proper, and I go to church every time the door is open, and I don't drink, and I don't smoke, and I don't chew, and I don't go with girls that do...". Is that your fruit? Keep reading.

Jude, in vs.5 begins to point out a few things, reminding the readers of knowledge previously imparted to them, and most certainly available to them by READING SCRIPTURE. How that the Lord saved a whole nation, delivering them from Egypt. It would seem, though, that some of these "saved" people really didn't believe, and THROUGH THEIR ACTIONS at a later time showed that they didn't believe (no faith). What happened? God destroyed them. Period. End of the line.

Same song, second verse. Some angels, who most certainly of all creatures KNOW that God is real, that He IS God, and that He means what He say, got their noses bent out of joint by LISTENING TO SATAN, decided they could DO WHATEVER THEY WANTED, and took a vacation.

Jude then speaks of "running GREEDILY after the error of Balaam for reward" (Num.22). With these words, Jude cuts right to the heart of the matter concerning not only some who come to God for what they think they can get from Him, but those also who bear the title "clergy" that fit into the category that Jesus described as "hirelings". Balaam was a noted and accepted prophet of God, and he did just exactly what God told him to do. When God said, "don't go", Balaam said "I can�t go". But, notice that when the ante was upped, Balaam said "I'll go ask again". When God told Balaam that he could go, but not to curse the Israelites, Balaam jumped and ran. Apparently, in his heart, he believed that he would be able to "get God to change His mind" later, and was thinking about how to spend all the money he would get. When people come to God expecting some kind of reward, or use the cause of God to reap rewards, no matter how well the intent of the heart may be hidden from other men, God will discern the matter, and as with Balaam, sooner or later an angel will stand in the way.

Too often in these days, many people are in the ministry for what they can gain on this earth, and even more come to " church" because of what these "Balaam's" promise from the pulpit (read Ezek. 13). Sometimes referred to as the "name it and claim it" bunch, or the "blab it and grab it" crew, one of the favorite ways they have of enticing people (and their money) is to promise that "if you'll just plant a seed (money), this is seed faith, and God will repay that faith ten or even a hundredfold". Friends, if the only reason you give to another or to a ministry is so that it will multiply in your pocket, I hope you have deep pockets. The motive is wrong, and if the motive is wrong, the action is wrong, and therefore sinful, not right in the sight of God. One of the foremost among the current crop of "Balaamites" is Bob Tilton, who promises faithfully that if you'll send him money with your prayer request, he'll pray for you, and God will MULTIPLY your money. Keeping fast pace with Tilton is Rod Parsley, who seems to spend more time showing off the diamonds he has been able to give to his wife than in preaching salvation. The basic multiplication that I have discerned is in their bank accounts.

Friends, God has given to us His spirit, and with that comes wisdom and knowledge to be able to "see fruit", not for judgment, but to determine the wise and correct path to follow God in.

The last words of Jude 11 should send a chill down the spine of all who read it: "...and PERISHED in the gainsaying of Core (Korah)". Korah (Num.16:32) was a self centered, egotistical dimwit who considered himself to be a spiritual giant, full of knowledge and wisdom, and at least as good if not better than Moses or Aaron. At his instigation, many Israelites rose up against Moses, murmuring and complaining about his leadership, and claiming for themselves the "right" to lead and govern. What does the scripture say? They perished. Boom, a big hole in the ground, and bye bye. The Kingdom of God is a THEOCRACY, which means God is in charge, not a democracy where the multitude rules.

When I was a young preacher, a supposedly older and wiser head than mine told me "son, don't ever meddle with the congregation". I didn't understand what he meant by "meddle". His response was to say "that just simply means don't talk about money except once a year, and stay away from preaching on alcohol and women, and don't EVER tell them they aren�t saved". Kinda cuts down the sermon material, doesn't it. Friends, God has given us His written word, not for our approval, but for our guidebook. If we don't like it, that is not going to change it, nor is He. If you can�t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. If we don�t like the way the preacher is preaching, then ask God to change ME, not him. If we have a disagreement with the preacher, and he is preaching from the Word, then WE need to change (it�s perfectly OK to check the scripture to make sure he isn�t leading us astray, or putting things together wrong). If a preacher is messing up on his preaching, and puts things together wrong, then that is between him and me, alone, and not between me and the rest of the congregation. That type of activity is the �gainsaying of Core�, and we must be careful that we do not perish in it.

God is not playing a game with us, or with this world. Why, then, do we insist on treating it like it is a game? Why do we continue to corrupt His Word, and do thins our own way? I know, let's blame someone else. It's the devils' fault. He made me do it. Yes, he did devise the evil, and he concocted the error and heresy, and he placed the temptation to follow it right square in the middle of our path, but he did NOT make us take the bait. We do it because we want to. In our hearts, we really want to be "as the most High", and satan knows this, and continues to play upon this weakness to lead us astray, to question the Word of God, and to display in our lives the fruits of doubt, fear, and unbelief. Most of all, though, he uses certain people to lead the masses who are too lazy and uncommitted to find out for themselves what God is truly saying. Do we need leaders? Certainly, and Jesus has gifted people to act in those capacities. But we also need to do more.

Luke, writing in Acts 17:11 commended the Bereans as "more noble...because they RECEIVED THE WORD WITH READINESS OF MIND, AND SEARCHED THE SCRIPTURES DAILY, WHETHER THESE THINGS WERE TRUE". Shouldn�t we be as noble as they?

Jude, after saying many more descriptive things about these people, makes very clear in vs.19 that those who fit the description ARE UNREDEEMED, having not the spirit of God. Remember, he is not talking about those on the outside who make fun of the church, or church things, he is talking ABOUT CHURCH PEOPLE. We must be "wise as serpents, and harmless as doves" in seeing fruit, observing the truthfulness of what is taught, and checking it out. If it is right, PRAISE GOD! If it is wrong, reject it.

I can think of no better way to end that to recount the words of Jude in vss.20-25 (emphasis and paraphrase mine).

"But you, my beloved friends, continue to grow and strengthen yourselves in the Holy Faith which you can learn from the Word. Pray continually in the Spirit, and by His guidance KEEP YOURSELVES IN THE LOVE OF GOD (loving everyone just as He loves you), continually looking forward to and expecting the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that gives eternal life. For some people, exhibit compassion and understanding, for this will make a difference to them in their salvation; for others, convince them of their end in fire, causing fear if need be (you can hate the sin they are in, but you MUST love the sinner). Now, to the ONLY wise God our Saviour be ALL the glory, and ALL the majesty, and ALL dominion and power, for ALL time, because HE is the ONLY ONE who is able to KEEP YOU FROM FALLING, and He has promised to present you as faultless through Jesus Christ in His presence with an exceeding abundance of joy".

Chapter Three - The Reality of the Body of Christ